Olawepo-Hashim: Rallying forces to sustain O To Ge ideals in Kwara politics
The political landscape in Kwara State recently became agog again ahead of the 2023 General Elections with the return of former presidential candidate and a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim to the scene he left some 15 years ago. But this time around, he is coming as a reconciliation, rather than a contestant.
After the death of the former Governor of Kwara, Mohammed Lawal, Olawepo-Hashim emerged as the most influential opposition figure in the state, openly challenging the age-long hegemony of the political empire of late Olusola Saraki, popularly known as ‘Oloye’.
He silently built his structure among the youths, the majority of who had since grown into leading lights in the state’s politics.
In a chat with journalists in Ilorin, Olawepo-Hashim said, “I left the scene when the majority of the opposition members who I had thought should form a formidable team to upstage the Sarakis were fighting me instead.
“But before then, we had liberated the politically weak ones among them and made them understand that Dr Olusola Saraki was after all human and could be politically challenged. It was a watershed in the modern history of politicking in the state.”
Olawepo-Hashim had a few months ago formally joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), saying that his former party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) did not have what is required to move Nigeria forward.
At the formal declaration in Abuja, he said he had consulted widely with the chieftains of APC before moving over given his belief that the ruling party has what it takes to protect the unity and progress of the nation.
He disclosed his readiness to reconcile the two factions of the APC in Kwara ahead of the 2023 polls so that the ruling party would coast home to victory resoundingly.
“Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak is a friend. But we had not met for some time until Monday, November 1, 2021, when I paid him a courtesy call. My resolve is that we should all support him to take this state to its eldorado.
“What is his offence? Because he is giving the youth the opportunity to contribute their quota to the development of the state? Youths form 60 percent of the voter population in the state. Another offence is that he has many females in his cabinet. Who doesn’t know the strength of women today in the socio-economic and political development of advanced democracies of the world?” Olawepo-Hashim said.
Before the election that ushered in AbdulRazak as the seventh civilian Governor of the 54-year-old state, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, an Oro-born politician in Irepodun Local Council of Kwara was touted as the leader of the APC in the state.
Mohammed’s emergence as the ‘leader’ was linked to his status as a Minister, thus being regarded as the most senior political office holder in the state. This toga of leadership was sustained to a point until the Governor decided to take control of the party in the state.
AbdulRazak first ensured the removal of the former party Chairman in the state, Bashiru Omolaja Bolarinwa and replaced him with Abdullahi Samari. The development did not receive the blessings of some loyalists of the Minister. The situation led to the existence of two factions within the party, one led by the Governor and the other by the Minister. The crisis had now escalated to the existence of two parallel offices of the APC in Ilorin, the state capital. The battle for supremacy was what sparked the crisis within the state chapter of APC. Every other reason cited after the outbreak of the cold war was secondary.
But according to Olawepo-Hashim, “the rift will be settled. It is a family affair and an arbiter is needed at this time to broker peace ahead of the 2023 elections. I had met with Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem. The two are major factors in the ongoing misunderstanding. We had moments of useful discussions on the way forward. We are still going to meet with other eminent members of each of the groups in due course.
“The good news is that my political allies are bonafide members of both factions. I have beckoned on them to eschew division but embrace unity so that the common political enemy we had weakened before ‘O to ge’ movement, will not stage a comeback,” he added.
For Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, the Chief Whip of the State House of Assembly in the Fourth Republic and the Chairman of the defunct ANC in Kwara, “all we want is a government that would allow party supremacy and engender a workable system for the socio-political and economic stability of our state and her people. The Governor should be aware of the fact that neither of the two factions to the exclusion of other in the state APC could at present win governorship elections in Kwara.”
At the last congress of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki said, “due to the present existing solid structure within his party, it would surely snatch powers from the APC in the next rounds of elections in Kwara.”
Saraki, who addressed his teeming supporters at the congress held at Agbo-Oba area of Ilorin, added sarcastically, “In our party, there is no crisis. We are doing what you want us to do. There is no division at the PDP and we remain the only political party to date with that credential. However, in the other party, it is a crisis galore. Our state can’t develop under this situation. We, therefore, need to come over in the year 2023 and rescue Kwara from crisis-ridden people.”
Speaking with The Guardian on the development, Femi Yusuff, popularly known as ‘Koto-Koto-Koto,’ who was the arrowhead for youth mobilisation during the ‘O To Ge’ movement, noted that it was too early to lose the gains of the collective struggle against political slavery in the state.
“We need to eat the proverbial humble pie and rally support for the Governor and his team. It should not be about selfish interest or ego flexing. We should all realise that there is a new order now because the old order was what ‘O To Ge’ fought and overthrew. In the process of building a new structure, I think we need patience, understanding and cooperation.”
These are some of the daunting tasks that Olawepo-Hashim is attempting to perform via his reconciliation crusade.